Ex-N.J. Governor Wants to Preach, Teach

( [email protected] ) May 05, 2007 02:27 PM EDT

WOODBRIDGE, N.J. (AP) - Jim McGreevey has gone from altar boy to mayor to the nation's first openly gay governor.

From the moment he stood at a podium in 2004 and announced he was a "gay American" who was resigning because of an affair with a male staffer, people wondered what McGreevey's next act would be.

Now we know: He wants to become a preacher and a teacher.

Embroiled in a bitter divorce battle, McGreevey has become an Episcopalian and enrolled in a "discernment" program to help prospective candidates for the priesthood decide if it is their true calling.

And he already has started teaching courses at a New Jersey university on ethics and leadership, which the head of the state's Republican party likened to "Doctor Kevorkian teaching health maintenance."

Some see an inspiring tale of redemption in McGreevey's new vocation; others see him as something akin to a bad rash that won't go away.

"He needs a lobotomy, not a collar," said Tom Balasia, who was waiting for a haircut in the same barbershop that used to trim McGreevey's locks when he was mayor of Woodbridge. "He's a liar who's hiding behind the cloth. He should be ashamed to show his face."

But Steve Goldstein, the head of Garden State Equality, the state's leading gay rights group, said reaction in the gay community to McGreevey's latest journey has been overwhelmingly positive.

"If I were not a nice Jewish boy studying to be a rabbi, I would embrace Jim McGreevey as my pastor in a New Jersey minute," he said. "I think it will take about one week for a congregation to fall in love with him."

State Senate President Richard Codey, who became acting governor when McGreevey resigned, and is doing so again while current Gov. Jon Corzine recovers from a car wreck, had some advice for McGreevey.

"You need to get out of the newspaper, simple as that," he said. "For his kid's sake, his former wife's sake. Enough's enough. Let him get on with his life, let him find happiness, but outside of the press area."

McGreevey, who was raised as a Roman Catholic, was officially received into the Episcopal religion on Sunday at St. Bartholomew's Church in Manhattan. McGreevey also has been accepted to study this fall at the General Theological Seminary in New York, the oldest of the Episcopal church.

"Where Mr. McGreevey goes with this is up to him," school spokesman Bruce Parker said. "We have a lot of people studying here who are not interested in ordination at all."

The process of preparing for the priesthood usually takes at least three years, but can last much longer.

Word of his latest vocation came the same week as his estranged wife, Dina Matos McGreevey, hit the talk show circuit to promote her book, "Silent Partner," about their life together and subsequent breakup. Their ongoing divorce has become so nasty that a judge scolded the two to use common sense and remember that their daughter, now 5, will someday read what they are saying about each other.

Dina Matos McGreevey did not respond to requests for comment left at her office and through her book publicist. But she issued a statement to WABC Channel 7, a sister company of her publisher, terming his seminary plans "the most absurd thing I've ever heard.

"He needs to be in the spotlight," she said. "I am astounded by his arrogance."

McGreevey declined an interview request Thursday.

The Episcopal Church has been far more welcoming of gays than the Catholic Church, which condemns homosexual conduct but professes love for the individual.

Associated Press writers Jeffrey Gold and Janet Frankston Lorin in Newark, N.J., contributed to this story.

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